Female Artists Absent In Mediabase Country Airplay Top 20 For Second Consecutive Week

Amidst a troubling trend, the Mediabase Country Airplay chart remains void of solo female hits in the Top 20 for the second consecutive week.

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

November 29, 2023

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Carly Pearce, Lauren Alaina, Kelsea Ballerini, Ashley McBryde; Photos by Andrew Wendowski

For the second consecutive week, the Mediabase Country Airplay chart features no solo-credited songs by female artists within the Top 20. This concerning trend was pointed out by U.S. Radio Updater on X (formerly Twitter). 

The only woman with a song currently in the Top 20 is Lainey Wilson, however, it’s as a feature with Jelly Roll on “Save Me.” 

Only Four Female Artists In The Top 40

The only female artists represented in the chart’s Top 40 with solo-credited songs are Gabby Barrett with “Glory Days” at No. 25, Carrie Underwood with “Out Of That Truck” at No. 30, Megan Moroney with “I’m Not Pretty at No. 31, and Lainey Wilson with her new single, “Wildflowers And Wild Horses” at No. 38.   

Mediabase Country Airplay Chart Dated Nov. 26, 2023
Mediabase Country Airplay Chart Dated Nov. 26, 2023

With only four solo-credited songs by female artists in the Top 40, this week’s chart includes just 10% representation by female artists. 

“Tomato-gate”

The lack of female artists on the chart represents an ongoing challenge within the country music genre and has been a topic of conversation since the “Tomato-gateuproar of 2015. This was brought about by country radio executive Keith Hill, who infamously compared females on country radio to tomatoes in a salad.  

“If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” Hill remarked in 2015. “I play great female records … they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.”

At the time, Hill cited an analysis that revealed female airplay on country radio stood at a mere 19 percent.

This is when artists like Martina McBride and Jennifer Nettles began to speak out. McBride used her platform to create “tomato” shirts and donated all proceeds to her charity, Team Martina, which supports equal rights for females in the music industry. The shirt was later displayed in the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

Has Anything Changed?

Now, eight years later, the current radio landscape appears to be unchanged. In the years since “Tomato-gate” the country music community has attempted to support female artists through various programs such as CMT’s Next Women of Country franchise, CMT’s Equal Play pledge, and the female singer/songwriter showcase dubbed Song Suffragettes. In an effort to support female artists, iHeartCountry launched Women of iHeartCountry, a playlist dedicated to featuring new music and interviews.  

Change The Conversation, an organization founded by successful music business executives Leslie Fram, Tracy Gershon, and Beverly Keel, aims to fight gender inequality in the music industry. According to the official Change The Conversation website, the organization provides “support, education, and community” or female artists and music industry executives. 

Citing research by the University of Ottawa’s Dr. Jada Watson, Change the Conversation reports that 10% is a common statistic representing female airplay at radio. This certainly rings true for the current Mediabase Country Airplay chart. 

Earlier this year, Dr. Watson, along with Jan Diehm of The Pudding, published a study dubbed “They Won’t Play A Lady-O On Country Radio,” analyzing radio airplay from 29 large-market country radio stations and found that female artists are played back-to-back just 0.5% of the time on average. This goes back to the age-old programming saying that women should not be played back-to-back on radio, and it appears that terrestrial radio programmers continue to heed the dated advice.   

Streaming doesn’t play by the same rules, however. Garth Brooks vowed to play more women on his new TuneIn channel, The Big 615. He told Billboard, “balance between guys and girls is fantastic. It is nothing to hear two females back to back on this channel…If there’s something we’re seriously missing in country music right now, it’s the number of females and those voices.”

READ MORE: 10 Rising Female Stars Shaping the Future of Country Music

The newly announced nominees for the Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB) CRS 2024 New Faces of Country Music also represent gender inequality in country music. Out of the seven nominees, only one is a female artist. Those nominated include George Birge, Chayce Beckham, Dillon Carmichael, Corey Kent, Megan Moroney, Conner Smith, and Warren Zeiders.

These numbers speak for themselves, and despite the efforts that have been made to support female artists in recent years, it is clear that there is an ongoing presence of gender inequality in country music.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.